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Do You Need to Confess Sins to people, or just to God?

Discussion in 'General Theology' started by Servant of Jesus, Oct 1, 2010.

  1. To claim Jesus' forgiveness, all the Bible says you have to do is repent and sin no more.

    So does repentance require telling others, especially the victims of your sin, about them, or is that something that can be dealt with just between you and God?

    Bible references please!

    .
     
  2. Rhamiel

    Rhamiel Member of the Round Table

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    James 5:16
    it is good to confess your sins
    it can be delt with just between you and God, so to speak, but why seak a faith that is the bare minimum? live a heroic life for the Lord in whatever station you are called for
     
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  3. ProScribe

    ProScribe New Member

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    I believe in a confession of faith. :crosseo:
     
  4. PilgrimToChrist

    PilgrimToChrist New Member

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    He does not confess your sins to any random person but to "the priests [πρεσβυτέρους] of the church". As a general rule, and even more strictly in the early Church, public sins should be confessed publicly (we see that with politicians and other public figures in a non-religious context, apologizing to the public for what they have done). But, even in those situations, it is the priest who absolves the person, as per Jesus' words to the Apostles.

    I have a cabinet of Band-Aids, Neosporin, witch hazel, hydrogen peroxide, NyQuil, and all sorts of other things. But if I cut my hand off with a band saw, a Band-Aid is not going to do it, I need a doctor. Mortal sins are like moral wounds, we have offended God so much that we need someone else to pray for us to restore our relationship with God. Perfect contrition, feeling sorry for our sins purely because we have offended God and not for any selfish reason (including desire for Heaven and fear of Hell), will also get us right with God but it is difficult to have that. It is much simpler and more sure to know we are sorry for our sins and to admit that we need help from those God has ordained to help us -- from those spiritual doctors we call priests.

    The idea that "I don't confess my sins to any man but to God alone" stems from that primeval sin, Pride. Shame and embarrassment should never stop us from turning to God's ministers for help. Emergency room doctors (so I hear) have to deal on a regular basis with people who have tried something bizarre for sexual stimulation and gotten themselves in a real bind. That's obviously an embarrassing problem and, sexual or not, no one wants to call an ambulance because they did something really stupid but it's a lot better than dying. We try to be self-reliant and fix our own problems but sometimes we need to call in the professionals.

    At the Judgment, the devil assigned to us (counterpart to our guardian angel) will read out the list of our crimes -- everything we thought nobody knew about, the smallest infraction and our biggest secrets. But, St. Paul tells us, if we judge ourselves, we will not be judged. We must admit to our sins and make peace with God before the devils charge us and God judges us guilty and sentences us to the eternal fire.

     
  5. PilgrimToChrist

    PilgrimToChrist New Member

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    Also, making peace with God also implies making peace with those who have been hurt by your sins. Certainly, you should apologize to those who you have victimized. If you got angry and yelled at or even hit a person, you need to go and apologize to them if you can. If you have spread gossip about a person, tell them and try to make it better. If you robbed someone, you can't just go and confess the sin without also making recompense and paying back what you have stolen. Sometimes it is also necessary to face the legal consequences of your actions if you have broken the civil law.

    So yes, you have to deal with the human consequences of your sins and make things right with those who you have hurt. That's part of the whole process.
     
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  6. ebia

    ebia Senior Contributor

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    "Repent" is a change of heart, a change of direction, a switching from my agenda to Jesus' agenda. The word repent doesn't inherently imply confessing to anybody - God or otherwise. While there are are good examples of people confessing in scripture, it is virtually always either to the community, or publically to God in the presence of the community. Not a private thing between you and God (or, for that matter, a private thing between you, God and your pastor).
     
  7. ebia

    ebia Senior Contributor

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    No it doesn't - it says to bring in the elders/presbyters for anointing, but the bit about confession says "to one another".

    What James has in mind is clearly confession in the context of the assembled community - private confession to a priest is at least as far from what James is saying as private confession to a fellow christian.

    If we are honest, all our traditions are way off-track, and have been for about a millennium and a half since public confesssion gave way to private. Right through the OT, the NT, and the early church, confession was a public act involving penitent, whole community, priest and God.
     
  8. MrPolo

    MrPolo Woe those who call evil good + good evil. Is 5:20

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    But as Pilgrim pointed out, Jesus breathed on the Apostles right before He told them about forgiving and retaining sins. To demonstrate the consistency of Jesus giving His gifts to His apostles, I present the following.

    The apostles were given Christ's same authority (Jn 20:21 + Mt 28:18).

    They miraculously healed like Jesus (Act 3:7).
    They exorcised demons like Jesus (Mk 6:13).
    They performed miracles, like raising the dead like Jesus (Act 9:40).

    And Jesus forgave sins (Lk 7:48, et al)

    Therefore, it is of natural fit to interpret Jn 20:23 that the Apostolic gifts also included forgiving sins, which of course is something only God can do----but does through the minister, just as He did all these other healings, exorcisms, and miracles.
     
  9. MrPolo

    MrPolo Woe those who call evil good + good evil. Is 5:20

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    I also think the following Scripture supports confession to a priest.

    Acts 19:9-18 ....here's how it goes:

    Paul and 12 disciples (on whom he gave the Spirit by laying his hands on them (v. 6)) were preaching in a certain building called the "hall of Tyrannus" (v. 9). That's where they preached for 2 years (v. 10). (incidentally, v. 11-12 is an example of relics in Scripture ;)) Signs were performed (v. 11-17) that revealed Christ. This became known to "residents of Ephesus" (v. 17). Then it says many of these new believers "now came" to confess their sins (v. 18). Presumably they "came" to the "hall of Tyrannus" were Paul and his ordained disciples were. But what is important is that these new believers didn't just confess their sins where they were, straight to God.

    Coupled with the authority Christ gave to the apostles (see previous post), this may well indicate that the sinners came to confess to ordained ministers. :thumbsup:
     
  10. ebia

    ebia Senior Contributor

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    One might discuss that, including who exactly was gifted with each of those responsibilities and who their successors are, and so forth, but I was simply pointing out that James does not say what she had him say.
     
  11. ebia

    ebia Senior Contributor

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    It sounds to me much more like they came to the gathered congregation than to an individual.
     
  12. PilgrimToChrist

    PilgrimToChrist New Member

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    If they were entirely separate passages, they wouldn't be joined with a "therefore". The Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick and the Sacrament of Penance are directly tied together -- the forgiveness of sins that comes with the Anointing and the forgiveness of sins that comes with Absolution are linked -- that is his point. Other people may pray for the sick person but it is the priest who anoints him. You may confess your sins to other people (and certainly, sometimes you should) but it is the priest who absolves you.

    So the Church screwed up 1500 years ago and God didn't bother to correct it? Hmm... a problematic statment.


    There's nothing wrong with private confession. With public sins, sometimes it is necessary to confess and apologize to people you have hurt, even to the whole Church, but even then, who gives the absolution? The successors of the Apostles.

    The power to forgive sins is indeed given to the Church as a whole but the jurisdictional authority to absolve sins is exercised by certain individuals -- starting with the Pope and flowing to the bishops in communion with him and the priests to whom that authority is delegated. Without jurisdiction, an individual has no authority to absolve someone of their sins. Whether or not the community hears that confession is part of reconciling with the community, with the other people effected by your sin, it has no bearing on whether or not your sin is forgiven -- that is from God through the priests he has given the authority to absolve sins and to the penitent, contingent on his contrition; the community is adjunct.

    How Confession is done -- public, private, in a confessional or face-to-face, etc. -- is up to the Church and the individuals involved; the important question is whether or not sins are forgiven through the absolution of the priest.
     
  13. PilgrimToChrist

    PilgrimToChrist New Member

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    I would like to point out that healings and miracles are of a different class than absolving sins and exorcisms. Healings and other miracles (apart, of course, from the Sacraments) are particular to individuals and their particular gifts. Absolving sins and casting out demons are something that has to do with the authority given to the Church.

    Although it is common among Charismatics (Protestants and Catholics), imprecatory commands are forbidden in exorcisms by lay people. We can pray, as in the St. Michael prayer, "May God rebuke him", but we cannot address the devil directly as in "I cast you out in the name of Jesus". This is dangerous, especially when dealing with multiple or high level demons, because the devil knows we have no authority to act, he says, "I know Jesus and I know Paul but who are you?" (Acts 19:15). The same goes for a priest, unless he has been granted specific jurisdictional authority from his bishop. Only the bishops, as successors of the Apostles, have the authority to act in the name of the Church.

    The same goes for absolving sins. Jesus gave the authority to forgive sins to the Apostles and from the Apostles to their successors, the bishops. The bishops delegate this authority, for most cases, to simple priests. The authority is given to the Church as a whole but only some people, specially ordained and given jurisdiction, can exercise that authority.
     
  14. ebia

    ebia Senior Contributor

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    A "therefore" doesn't mean that the 'rules' of the first part apply to the second part - the second part is quite clear who is to be confessed to.


    You're imposing a later theology onto the text. That's okay to a point, but you're no longer dealing in what the text says.


    God often takes his time with our mistakes. If we haven't learned that, we haven't learned anything.
    I didn't say there was. The issue is that its become the norm rather than the exception, to the point of completely excluding what is the norm throughout scripture and the earliest church.

    No. God via the People of God through their reprsentatives. Which amounts to the same thing in practice until that practice becomes distorted by thinking its the clergy rather than the people who are the important bit and you end up with a distortion that has lost all contact with its origins in scripture and thepractice of the apostles one claims to be successor too.

    No, the important question is whether God forgives sins and whether there is a change of direction.
     
  15. addo

    addo Senior Member

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    You must always confess to God. That is, every sin you commit is a sin against God; thus you must always confess all your sins to God.

    Now about confessing to other people, I think that if you sinned against that man or woman you must confess it to her/him. You sin against God and you must ask His forgiveness, but you also sin against other people and you must ask their forgiveness too, if they can.

    Every sin is a sin against God so this is why you must ask for His forgiveness every time you sin; but also most of our sins are done against other people too, so we must ask for their forgiveness too. But I think there can also be instances when it is better not to tell, but judging that depends on the wisdom God gave you.
     
  16. MrPolo

    MrPolo Woe those who call evil good + good evil. Is 5:20

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    I was pointing out that ordained ministers were at the location they chose to go to in order to confess. And I don't think you will see a historically knowledgeable Catholic denying public confession in the ancient Church, but the setting of the sacrament is not considered something part of immutable teaching, but rather a pastoral norm which the Church has the guidance to bind and loose. And I think it would be unproductive to argue that the sacrament is faulty if the minister and penitent are alone, but not if they are in front of other people.
     
  17. MrPolo

    MrPolo Woe those who call evil good + good evil. Is 5:20

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    True, in which case my post could be amended to include only the authoritative gifts Jesus had like appointing ministers, forgiving sins, binding and loosing.
     
  18. visionary

    visionary Your God is my God... Ruth said, so say I. Supporter

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    James 5:16
    Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
     
  19. Michael Collum

    Michael Collum Compassion is the basis of the teachings . Supporter

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    Well a passage in 1st John that has most likely already been quoted shows by confessing our sins God is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness . we are to confess to God . but there is a certain element of the warfare against sin that darkness needs to be exposed to the light (Gospel of John) .

    so "yes"

    you need to confess to God . and you need fellowship to confess among also . otherwise we hide the sin in our hearts as Adam did (Job) and it eats away at us from the inside .
     
  20. Thank you for your post- I generally agree with this, but have three comments:

    1. the verse from James 5 is arguably the most direct instruction in the Bible with regard to how we should deal with sin and confession. But this verse does not suggest that it is mandatory to confess your sin to a person.

    2. I am not aware that Jesus ever suggested that we must confess our sins to a fellow human being.

    3. Neither in James, or anywhere else in the Bible, is there any instruction as to how detailed a confession of sin should be- either to God or to others. I think it is very interesting that Jesus, in the Lord's Prayer, simply says the following in Luke 11 (I bolded the key passage):

    1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples."
    2 He said to them, "When you pray, say:
    " 'Father,
    hallowed be your name,
    your kingdom come.
    3 Give us each day our daily bread.
    4 Forgive us our sins,
    for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
    And lead us not into temptation.' "


    So Jesus suggests that we should only ask God to forgive our sins, nowhere does it suggest that we need to go into gory details about what those sins are, or that we should confess them to someone other than God.
    _________________________________

    Let me give some examples of why I believe this is an important issue for Christians, and why I am keen to hear other's insights into this matter:

    1. I have several times been at Church services where someone, during their testimony prior to being baptized, has talked about their former life of sin- describing in detail a former history of drug abuse, or sexual immorality.

    Personally, I don't think it is necessary or appropriate to do this, especially when there are children present. We are all mortal human beings, and can never expunge from our minds what we hear. Despite our best intentions, I believe it is not possible to totally erase from our consciousness such a person's sordid past when we meet them face to face at other church functions. Imagine, for example, a community church leader or teacher, who confesses to past sins involving some perversion- can we (especially a prospective employer) really expunge those thoughts from our minds and not let them bias our assessment of that person, even if they have totally repented? Besides, is it not unfair for a person to make such a confession in a setting where listeners can't escape; where they must listen, no matter how uncomfortable they are, to the confession?

    2. I have heard or read stories of married people who succumbed to adultery- but then realized their sin, felt horrible and very guilty about it, repented, and renewed their marital commitment. Some of those accounts are even related here on CF.

    In cases where the spouse- or the family- did not know about the adultery, is it really necessary to risk breaking up the marriage, or worse, the family, by confessing such a sin to them? Again, a wife or child who hears such a confession is forced to listen, and will forever have that information imprinted in their minds- so I ask- is that really fair and necessary for healing to take place?

    3. I was once present at a church service where people were encouraged to confess and seek the congregation's forgiveness of their sins. I am sure the intention of the Pastor was to have people make their confessions in a general way- but one woman got up and confessed to a former life of embezzlement and fraud, for which she had served time in jail. Trouble is, she now worked in the local bank- and although I have no doubt that her repentance was complete and real, I don't think it was appropriate or necessary for her to share her past sins in such a public way, even if it was in a church service.

    Jesus never expected people to spell out in lurid detail what sins they had committed. His message was clear: the Father knows, so repent and sin no more, and go on with your life as best as you are able with God's guidance.

    .
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 2, 2010